Source: Council on Foreign Relations
Last Sunday night, Iraqi government forces — with the help of Popular Mobilization Units aligned with Iran — retook the disputed city of Kirkuk. In this effort they benefited from the tacit cooperation of Kurdish military forces, known as peshmerga, who are loyal to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). The PUK is the historic rival of the Kurdistan Democratic Party under the leadership of Masoud Barzani, who is also the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government.
The KRG, as it is known, is an autonomous region of Iraq, but many people there want much more than that. On Sept. 25, the KRG held a referendum on independence in which 93 percent of voters affirmed their desire to break away from Iraq. Baghdad’s military operations were part of an effort to forestall that outcome, especially since Kirkuk is not actually part of the KRG, but fell into Kurdish hands after the self-declared Islamic State overran parts of northern Iraq in June 2014 and Iraqi troops there fled.
Within hours after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the operation to secure Kirkuk, KDP-loyal peshmerga were forced to concede the city, an airbase and the oil fields in the area. It was a triumph for Abadi and an ignominious defeat for Barzani. The central government, having restored control (loosely defined), as it existed before the Islamic State’s invasion, now says it is time for negotiations between Baghdad and the Kurdish leadership in Erbil. It is unclear whether or how that can happen, with Barzani greatly weakened and Kurdish politics thrown into mutual recriminations and accusations of betrayal. READ MORE…
The internet and social media were once hailed for creating new opportunities to spread democracy and freedom. But authoritarian regimes soon began cracking down on internet freedom. They feared the brave new digital world, because it was beyond the reach of their analogue security establishments. Their fears proved unfounded. In the event, most social media-enabled popular uprisings failed for want of effective leadership, and traditional political and military organizations retained the upper hand. Technology does not stand still, and nor should democracy.read more
ISIS threat ‘is going to morph’ and possibly go underground in Iraq, says Maj.-Gen. Mike Rouleauread more
Government corruption provided Daesh and local militias with the umbrella they needed to seize power in Iraq, officials and lawmakers told Arab News on Thursday. They said Iraq’s security and political stability will remain threatened as long as corrupt officials continue to control the country’s assets. Iraq is high on the list of the most corrupt countries. The Iraqi Parliamentary Committee of Integrity told Arab News that the estimated value of “looted” amounts during the past 12 years has been more than $200 billion.read more
US companies are eager to strengthen bilateral cooperation with Iraq in all industrial sectors, especially in oil and gas, the Iraqi Ministry of Oil said on Thursday after US Ambassador to Iraq Douglas Silliman met with Iraqi Oil Minister Jabbar Al-Luaibi. Al-Luaibi invited US companies to take part in tenders called by the Iraqi ministry and said Iraq was preparing more favorable work conditions for foreign companies investing and doing business in Iraq, Oil Price reported. The two US supermajors, ExxonMobil and Chevron, already have operations in parts of Iraq. Exxon signed an agreement in 2010 with Iraq’s South Oil Company to redevelop and rehabilitate the West Qurna I Oilfield in southern Iraq.read more
Mr Al Abadi has faced internal pressures to postpone the elections for at least six months but is adamant they will go ahead. Iraqi prime minister Haider Al Abadi has assured the nation that parliamentary and provincial elections will be held in Iraq in May as scheduled. Mr Al Abadi has faced internal pressures from the State of Law Coalition and the Union of Sunni forces in addition to Kurdish parties to postpone the elections for at least six months, Al Hayat, the pan-Arab newspaper reported. But in his weekly press conference, the prime minister dismissed any doubts, saying, “The cabinet today reiterated that provincial and parliamentary elections will be held on 12 May 2018.,” Mr Al Abadi said. “There is no reason for delaying the elections.”read more